Bestselling adult author of The Bear and the Nightingale makes her middle grade debut with a creepy, spellbinding ghost story destined to become a classic
After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year-old Ollie only finds solace in books. So when she happens upon a crazed woman at the river threatening to throw a book into the water, Ollie doesn’t think–she just acts, stealing the book and running away. As she begins to read the slender volume, Ollie discovers a chilling story about a girl named Beth, the two brothers who both loved her, and a peculiar deal made with “the smiling man,” a sinister specter who grants your most tightly held wish, but only for the ultimate price.
Ollie is captivated by the tale until her school trip the next day to Smoke Hollow, a local farm with a haunting history all its own. There she stumbles upon the graves of the very people she’s been reading about. Could it be the story about the smiling man is true? Ollie doesn’t have too long to think about the answer to that. On the way home, the school bus breaks down, sending their teacher back to the farm for help. But the strange bus driver has some advice for the kids left behind in his care: “Best get moving. At nightfall they’ll come for the rest of you.” Nightfall is, indeed, fast descending when Ollie’s previously broken digital wristwatch, a keepsake reminder of better times, begins a startling countdown and delivers a terrifying message: RUN.
Only Ollie and two of her classmates heed the bus driver’s warning. As the trio head out into the woods–bordered by a field of scarecrows that seem to be watching them–the bus driver has just one final piece of advice for Ollie and her friends: “Avoid large places. Keep to small.”
And with that, a deliciously creepy and hair-raising adventure begins.
I bought this book at NYCC 2018 because I am a fan of Katherine Arden’s The Winternight Trilogy.
Although I am way older than the target audience of this story I found it suspenseful and creepy. A very good, and fast, Halloween read. I had to keep going to see how it would turn out.
I doesn’t go too in depth about the history, or the details about the curse, but it explained enough to set up the stakes if the main protagonists should fail.
I really liked the character development and relationships between the main characters: Olivia, Brian and Coco. I also liked that for a change instead of the trio being two boys and a girl, it was two girls and a boy. I never see that.
The end is left open for more adventures and I look forward to the next story.
4 out of 5 Scarecrows.